An enchantress from seventeenth-century Massachusetts collides with a future beyond her imagining . . . and with a handsome cynic who’s about to learn a lesson in the power of love.
Arian Whitewood hadn’t quite gotten the hang of the powerful amulet she’d inherited from her mother, but she never expected it to whisk her more than three hundred years into the future. Flying unsteadily on her broomstick, she suddenly finds herself among towers of glass and metal, then tumbling from the sky to land at the feet of a man with frost-gray eyes and a seemingly flint-hard heart.
Reclusive billionaire Tristan Lennox didn’t believe in magic, but he had his own reasons for offering one million dollars to anyone who could prove it existed. Now he finds himself besieged by fakes, frauds, and an old nemesis ready to leap on this opportunity to destroy him. But the smoky-voiced beauty who appeared to fall from the clouds into his climate-controlled existence is something else entirely—a woman able to enchant his lonely heart with wonder, but who can’t possibly be what she seems.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
If anyone had dared to inform Miss Arian Whitewood that it might prove hazardous to practice witchcraft in the colony of Massachusetts in 1689, she would have scoffed in their face with all the saucy immortality of any twenty-year-old. Anyone, however, did not include her stepfather, for whom she harbored a great deal of respect and a somewhat stilted affection. So she sat in the ladder-backed chair facing the stone hearth, her hands folded demurely in her lap, and listened wide-eyed to his diatribe against Satan’s servants and black magic.
His rehearsed speech seemed to embarrass him more than it did her. He clutched a slim prayerbook in one hand and fidgeted with his iron-gray hair with the other. His gaze persisted in straying to a spot just over her head.
Arian’s buckled shoes tapped out a merry rhythm on the freshly sanded floor as her stepfather raved on about some irksome cow that refused to give anything but curdled milk for Goody Hubbins. As she glanced at the willow broom leaning innocently against the hearth, her lips twitched with remembered amusement.
“Arian!” Marcus Whitewood bellowed, his faded blue eyes capturing her gaze. “Have you not heard a word I have said? Do you not realize your soul is in grave danger, child?”
She swallowed a sigh. “Forgive me, Father Marcus. My thoughts wandered. Pray do continue.”
Her bored resignation sent Marcus’s hand shooting through his hair again. “Only yesterday Goodwife Burke claimed her Charity was reading her catechisms when you did pass by the window and the girl went into fits.”
“Fits of boredom most likely,” Arian muttered beneath her breath. She didn’t dare tell Marcus that the horse-faced Charity had come pounding at their door only two nights ago, begging Arian to cast her future in a cup of moldy tea leaves.
“I accuse you of nothing, daughter. But I thought you safer warned of the talk in the village. ’Tis not only your soul I am troubled for.”
Arian groaned. “I shall never be a Puritan and they know it. I only attend their interminable meeting to make life easier for you. They’ve hated me from the moment I set foot in Gloucester.”
Marcus’s frown softened. He remembered that moment vividly although it had occurred over ten years ago. He had stood on the dock, wringing his hat in his hands until it was past all repair. A silent prayer had risen unbidden to his lips when a tiny vision in a scarlet cape had come sauntering down the ship’s ramp, clutching a valise with the bored assurance of a practiced traveler.
His rehearsed words of welcome had died in his throat as the jaded pygmy surveyed him from heels to head and demanded in a voice two octaves too deep for its owner’s petite stature, “Where is my mama? Has she run off again?”
His stepdaughter had grown a few scant inches since then, but her husky voice and snapping dark eyes could still make a man swallow his words.
She folded her arms over her chest in a gesture of rebellion Marcus had come to know only too well. “ ’Twas my fluency in French and my ruffled petticoats they did not care for. My grandmama believed a traveling child should be well dressed.”
“Your grandmama also believed in witchcraft, young lady.” He shook a forefinger at her. “She was a fanciful old Frenchwoman who poisoned your innocent mind with her black arts.”
“White arts,” Arian bit off. “Grandmama was a Christian. It broke her heart to send me away. She lived less than a year after my departure.”
Arian blinked back a hot rush of tears. Her dear, pudgy grandmama had not known she was sending Arian to a stern stepfather she had never met and a mother who would be dead before she arrived.
Marcus tilted her chin up with one finger, forcing her to meet his gaze. “I promised your mother I would offer you both a home and a name. Even when Lillian was too weak to speak without coughing up blood, her thoughts were of you. She had great hopes of building a life here for the three of us.”
His wistful smile gave Arian a glimpse of the adoration that had drawn her frivolous mama to this plain, stoic man. She looked away, knowing herself an intruder on his lost passion for a woman Arian had hardly known and never liked.
Marcus gruffly cleared his throat. “You are an innocent, Arian. An easy mark for the devil. He could prey upon your childish potions and playacting. I know you intend no harm, but the villagers do not. They see a willful girl who is different from them and it makes them afraid.”
“But I haven’t concocted a single potion since you burned my powdered mice feet and poured out my bat’s blood,” she assured him earnestly.
He shuddered and placed a firm hand on her shoulder. “Allow me to pray for your soul, daughter. Let us kneel and ask the Almighty Lord to purge you of the seeds of black magic your grandmother planted in your heart.”
Even as she slipped obediently to her knees, Arian’s heart cried, White magic!
Knowing protest was futile, she arranged her skirts to cushion her knees for an ordeal that could last for hours. Marcus eased into a steady drone, repeating prayer after prayer from the slender book. A trickle of sweat crawled down Arian’s side beneath the scratchy linsey-woolsey of her dress.
She opened one eye to find Marcus’s head bowed and his eyes closed. Eager to test her newfound talents, she narrowed her eyes, focusing all of her attention on a pewter candlestick that rested on the mantel. The candlestick just sat there—a mocking blob of inanimate metal. Desperate to prove her powers were her own, but loath to admit defeat, Arian drew her folded hands inward to grasp the emerald amulet. Her fingers began to tingle.
A gap slowly widened between the gleaming base of the candlestick and the wooden shelf. A mischievous smile curved Arian’s lips. She swung her head from side to side, sending the candlestick into a sprightly jig.
Marcus’s roar splintered her concentration. The massive candlestick crashed to the hearth only inches from his kneeling form.
Arian gasped. “Forgive me, Father Marcus … I never meant to …”
Her protest faded as he scrambled to his feet, his face ashen. “You seek to do me harm, daughter?” Throwing a hand over his eyes, he cried, “I cannot bear it!”
He stumbled out the door into the windy night, leaving Arian to wonder if she had just alienated her only ally in this heartless land.
* * *
The moon had drifted high in the sky before Arian heard Marcus’s disheartened tread on the stairs. She sat before a cheval glass in the shadowy loft, working a hairbrush through her mass of frizzled curls. The brush caught in a painful tangle as Marcus’s bedroom door creaked open, then shut with a mournful thud.
Taking up her candle, Arian paced to the shuddering windowpane, her eyes searching the night for an unknown comfort. Resting the candlestick beside her, she curled up on the narrow sill and dragged a threadbare quilt around her shoulders. Clouds sped across the moon, making her wish she could fly away with them.
She had thirsted for magic most of her life, believing its power might quench the yearning in her soul. A yearning honed by years of being shuffled from household to household at the whim of her mother’s wealthy lovers. Her only stability had been a battered book of fairy tales sent to her on her third birthday by a grandmama she had yet to meet.
She had immersed herself in exotic kingdoms ruled by wizards, witches, and raven-haired princes, far preferring them to the whirl of frenzied gaiety punctuated by her mama’s brittle laughter, the clink of wineglasses, and unfamiliar masculine murmurs.
The rabid snarl of quarreling voices had shattered her sleep more often than not, leaving her trembling in the darkness and trying to remember where she was. It was only after she had fumbled to light a candle and begun to leaf through the gilt-edged pages of her beloved book that she would begin to remember not only where she was, but who she was as well. Or at least who she longed to be.
Often after such a night, her mother would emerge, her ethereal beauty enhanced by tragic pallor, and inform Arian that it was time to pack. Before the day was over, Arian would be settled in another house and her mother in another man’s bed.
Arian rested her forehead against the cool glass. Her precious book of fairy tales had been lost during the grueling voyage to the Colonies and her mother now slept for all eternity beneath the stony Massachusetts sod. All that remained of her past was an emerald amulet—a trinket she had always regarded with a curious mixture of pride and contempt.
Arian drew the amulet from her nightgown, viewing it with newfound respect. Until that afternoon in the clearing, her clumsy attempts at spell-casting had always failed her. She shivered with mingled fear and delight at the memory. The raw power strumming across her nerves had been like being kissed by a bolt of lightning. Perhaps her natural talent for witchery had just needed a fresh focus. She’d read many tales of such charms and talismans, necessary only until the novice witch developed faith in her gift.
Arian longed to discover what other wonders she might be capable of, but after her disastrous encounter with Marcus, she feared invoking her powers without a compelling reason.
She closed her fist around the amulet, wishing it could be a source of comfort as well as contention.
Her eyes fluttered shut as she snuggled deeper into the quilt. But instead of dreaming of a raven-haired prince who possessed the power to break Gloucester’s dark enchantment with a single chaste kiss, she dreamed of a man with hair the color of sunlight and eyes of glittering frost.
She moaned softly in her sleep as the wick of the tallow candle sputtered in its drippings and drowned itself into darkness.